In 2014, I shot the NRA Annual Meetings in Indianapolis. They’re back in Indy again this month, so I’m revisiting the photos to see what I think of them after 5 years.
As I looked through these images, I was struck by the casual violence in the language used in promotional pieces around the convention center. All of the pull quotes are lines that are visible in the images they accompany.
In the spring of 2014 I got an email from the NRA’s ad agency to see if I was available to cover three days of events surrounding their Annual Meetings. I’ve never been a gun person or a supporter of the NRA, but I felt more neutral about the NRA at the time and was open to photographing for them.
The NRA Annual Meetings (basically a gun trade show) is not a scene I had any experience with prior to the shoot, so it was eye-opening to get a first-hand look. Personally, I found it jarring to be around such a massive arsenal. I feel that way now as I view these images again.
“Learn to shoot”
One thing that struck me as I wandered the convention center is just how many gun manufacturers there are. Before that day, I knew maybe 5-6 different gun makers (granted, I’m not in their target market), but there are dozens of them.
Also, I thought that guns would be expensive. They are not. Many of the handguns start at around $300 or so. Sure, there are some that are a few thousand dollars, but the barrier to entry is extremely low.
“The perfect balance of art & technology”
“Male Lion $13,500”
“For competition and beyond.”
I expected that the guns present at the show would be primarily handguns, shotguns and hunting rifles, but there was a large number of military-style weapons present. It boggles my mind as to why anyone outside of the armed forces would need a 50-caliber rifle (it’s about 4-feet long and fires a round slightly smaller than a Red Bull can).
“Accurate. Deadly. Dependable.”
“Every gun owner must engage in the fight.”
With this story, as with anything I shoot, I looked to approach it from an objective point of view. By the end of the weekend, I was anything but neutral on the subject, but I wonder if my photos are still objective. Would a pro-gun person feel like I captured the essence of the NRA Annual Meetings? Many of the images feel violent to me, but is that only because of my personal feelings about guns?
Photographing the NRA Annual Meetings gave me a personal look at an industry and an organization that I was unfamiliar with. I learned a lot and made a set of images that I’m proud of. However, I did not warm to their cause. I can’t say that I regret taking the shoot, but in 2019 it’s not something I would do again.